||The performance of thermoelectric generators depends on a variety of factors, many
of which are meticulously controlled through generator design or operational management.
However, there are environmental factors that affect operations which cannot be controlled
directly, such as air temperature and water temperature. Recent studies have suggested
that a warming climate will have a significant impact on cooling water availability
for generators, arising in part from cooling water regulations designed to protect
aquatic ecosystems. Other work has shown the effect of either air or water temperature
on the efficiency of specific generating technologies. The physical relationships
between ambient temperatures, combustion, and cooling processes are well understood,
but the implications of these relationships for real-time plant efficiency across
power generating technologies have not been fully explored in the literature. This
study develops empirical estimates for the impact of air temperature and water temperature
on the efficiency of coal- and natural gas-fired power plants with once-through and
recirculating cooling systems.
Using USGS and NOAA air and water temperature data and EPA records of power plant
fuel consumption and power output, this master’s project quantifies the impact of
air and water temperature on power plant efficiency. Regression models developed here
indicate that a 1° C increase in air temperature is correlated with a 0.01 percentage
point decrease in plant efficiency and a 1° C increase in water temperature is correlated
with a 0.02 percentage point decrease in plant efficiency, though these vary for by
generating technology and cooling system type. These impacts are substantially smaller
in magnitude than analogous effects quantified in previous studies.